“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. Design is how it works.”—Steve Jobs
Welcome to This Week’s IDEA, where we talk about one essential topic around 21st Century IDEA and share resources and tools that you can use to start making small, incremental changes to your websites and digital services.
21st Century IDEA states that new and updated executive agency websites should have “a consistent appearance” (P.L. 115-336 §3(A)2).
This requirement really means that we need to promote continuity by minimizing disruption and providing a consistent experience—across sites, devices, channels, services, agencies, and time.
Consistency is not necessarily conformity. Each website has a unique audience, mission, and goal, so the way that we implement our solutions differs. But, we can promote continuity by starting from shared solutions and values. The U.S. Web Design System’s design principles are one set of shared values.
So, what does it mean to promote continuity, and how can we build user-centered solutions that address the whole experience of our customers in the context of their journey?
In 2003, when asked about the success of the iPod, Steve Jobs said, “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer—that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
How can we design government websites so they look good AND work? How can we design our services to better support customer journeys?
According to the service design framework, we need to address both the “frontstage” appearance of our websites and “backstage” components like governance, infrastructure, and policies.
NoteOver 10 million people per month visit the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) websites. Many had a fractured, frustrating experience locating the information they need. A united VA team worked across boundaries to eliminate outdated content, move essential information to a new content management system, and give Veterans the 21st century digital experience they deserve. So far, the new VA.gov has had a significant impact. For example, since the national rollout there has been a 700% increase in appointments scheduled online.
In October 2019, the U.S. Web Design System team held a digital experience meetup, and we asked digital experts from federal agencies what they do to deliver a great digital experience.
A breakout group brainstorms what it means to deliver an experience that solves a problem at the board.
Below are a few things attendees said they do to promote continuity on their websites.
- Create a clear vision, northstar or mission statement based on desired outcomes and customer expectations for the website. For example, Digital.gov’s About page is the site’s “northstar.”
- Help customers easily find the information. Prioritize usability over style.
- Eliminate long, hard-to-navigate pages. Each page should meet a specific need.
- Improve site navigation. Check the metadata on pages and review your content model, so pages do not get lost in your search.
- Develop service blueprints. Plan out and create cross-channel experiences.
- Use journey mapping. Identify continuity gaps for critical activities. For example, the USAgov team used journey mapping to improve the customer experience for newly naturalized citizens attempting to travel abroad.
- Manage and structure content. Review the Content Management System (CMS) Toolkit and determine if a CMS could help you deliver a better experience.
Summary from four breakout groups.
Check out the summary from the four breakout groups at the meetup for more insights and inspiration! (Note: There are 325 cards in the summary; use the zoom settings in the bottom right corner of the summary to zoom in and read them.)
Continuity is key. Let’s work together to promote continuity.
- The Lab at OPM offers classes in human-centered design. Check out their 2020 classes, including Problem-Framing for Solution-Finding on June 16.
- Shift your metrics mindset. Join the DAP team on June 24 to learn how to orient your analytics strategy around success metrics.
From the Field
“All government websites shouldn’t look exactly the same because trust and recognition are not universal. Instead, the design must match the tone and subject matter of each agency’s unique mission.” —via 18F
Do you have a 21st Century IDEA-related comment or question? Or would you like to give a shout out to your colleagues? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll work to incorporate it into the next newsletter.